The Quiet at the End of the World is an exploration of what it means to be human, and what it means to be human when you are carrying the weight of your species on yours and one others backs.
There are thoughtful moments, uncomfortable concepts and scenes that may make you wobble emotionally but it is an beautiful yet heartbreaking book.
The plot explores the human experience of Lowrie and Shen’s world as the youngest people on Earth after a virus wipes out human fertility in the 21st century and the creeping horror as those halcyon days fade when things start to fall apart.
They spend their days in hazy wonder, treasure hunting, dog walking, swimming and lessons amongst the ruins of central London with the last community.
After finding a lost handbag Lowrie becomes obsessed with the archived social media profile of its owner who lived through the virus and its aftermath as humanity struggled to adapt to a world without children, but as she reads deeper and things start to change around her hidden secrets begin to shatter the idyllic innocence.
This isn’t a Sci-Fi horror in the sense of aliens coming to burst out their chests, though I’m sure Shen would be absolutely fascinated! This is an exploration of what it means to be human and what happens to that concept when humanity shifts so dramatically.
The factors of LBTQIA as part of humanity and human sexuality are explored through the archived social media postings of a trans-man and Lowrie being bisexual the latter which has a part to play in her role as a last human and the (gentle) misunderstandings that can come from others.
James forces us to think what does it mean to be human throughout and there are uncomfortable concepts within the plot regarding extinction and permanence which may require deep thought on the readers behalf of where they stand.
I love the way that scientist Lauren James isn’t afraid to be scathing about the damage that humanity has made to the Earth particularly over the last 200 years, she shows just how long lasting the effects of humanity can be, but also how fragile and impermanent our species can be given nature a chance.
I especially love how the almost abandoned London of the future is the juxtaposition of bucolic mudlarking paradise with the crumbling ruins of Empire and capitalism.
Without MASSIVE spoilers I can’t say much about the twist except there are little signposts throughout for the eager eyes or scrutinising mind but it wasn’t any less earthshattering or requiring self reflection for having picked up on these cues.
I thoroughly enjoyed the reflection and experience of this book, I would wholly recommend this for its themes of the human condition, survival, environmentalism and how gently to leave our footprints on the Earth.
The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James is published by Walker Books on 7th March 2019.